Sunday, January 5, 2014
Welcome to Cincinnati for AFC wild card
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Welcome to Paul Brown Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals are preparing for the second AFC wild-card game of the weekend. If this game is even an ounce as entertaining as Saturday's Chiefs-Colts game, we'll be in for a very fun one later Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals enter the first-round game as favorites following their 17-10 win at San Diego 35 days ago. They also are benefited by the mere fact that they are playing at home for the ninth time this year. They went undefeated in the first eight games, shutting down four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks -- Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco -- in the process.
As for the Chargers, this playoff game comes on the heels of a four-game winning streak that closed out the regular season. In addition to getting back a few key defensive players, the Chargers appeared to have learned from that loss. They were better defending the run after giving up 164 yards to the Bengals. Against the Broncos in that winning streak, San Diego only allowed 18. One key to the ballgame will be how well the Chargers defend the run, along with how much the Bengals run it. Cincinnati might become dedicated to taking to the air, particularly throwing screens to open up the pass.
Here are a few other items to help you get ready for the game:
Kickoff/TV: 1:05 p.m. ET/CBS
Weather: 37 degrees and cloudy. Winds: Gusts up 14 mph by the end of the game.
Records: Bengals (11-5); Chargers (9-7)
Series history: San Diego has a 19-14 all-time advantage over the Bengals. That includes one postseason game between the teams; the 1981 AFC Championship Game that was later nicknamed the "Freezer Bowl" for the minus-9 temperatures and minus-59 wind chill that the teams played through that day. That game at Riverfront Stadium was the last the postseason contest played between the two teams before Sunday. The Bengals won that one 27-7 to earn a trip to their first Super Bowl. Cincinnati's first regular-season game as a franchise, Sept. 6, 1968, also came against San Diego. The Chargers won that one, 29-13.
Worth noting: The Bengals haven't yet won a postseason game under quarterback Andy Dalton, who has reached the playoffs all three years of his career. They also haven't won a playoff game under coach Marvin Lewis, who is in his 11th season. In fact, Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since 1990, when it blew out the Houston Oilers. The next week, the Bengals began their postseason losing streak when they lost to the L.A. Raiders in the game when Raiders running back Bo Jackson broke his hip, essentially ending his two-sport career.